A man who on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against a Salt Lake City K-9 officer for unnecessarily unleashing a police dog on him in July — causing “horrific” to-the-bone injuries — was arrested following an afternoon news conference at his attorney’s office.
Jackie Joseph Sanchez — a 61-year-old homeless man — said he was unaware he had been charged in August with assault against a police officer and other misdemeanors in connection with the July 28 dog attack episode.
The dog attack caused significant injury to Sanchez, leading to multiple surgeries, a five-day hospital stay and $30,000 in medical bills.
“That’s not one little bite,” attorney Robert Sykes said. “That dog is ripping away at that flesh. He’s ripping away at it.”
During the news conference at Sykes’ law offices, he said Officer Benjamin Hone’s use of the police dog was outrageous, and claimed that parts of Hone’s report of the incident were falsified.
“This report is fabricated,” Sykes said. “Based upon my eyewitness, it’s false. Many false statements.”
The news conference took a dramatic turn when two Salt Lake City patrol officers and two officers from the department’s public relations staff appeared outside the building to arrest Sanchez.
Sanchez remained inside the law office while Sykes found Sanchez a defense lawyer to represent him in criminal matter.
The civil rights lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, claims Hone needlessly released a police dog, causing lacerations and 42 puncture wounds to Sanchez.
Sanchez called the experience a “nightmare.” He pulled up his pant leg to show large scars around his knee, and said he has permanent numbing in his calf due to nerve damage. He said he gets the feeling of a pinched nerve in his leg sometimes, which causes severe pain. Sanchez’s thumb also was lacerated and fractured.
The lawsuit alleges that Salt Lake City Officer Jose Munoz was dispatched on a report of two intoxicated males causing a disturbance at a bus stop at 430 S. State St. — in front of Matheson Courthouse — at 5:10 p.m. on July 28.
Despite Munoz being dispatched, Hone responded to the call and arrived before Munoz, the lawsuit states. Hone didn’t have his body camera with him.
The police department said Hone was on his way into work when he answered the call, and his body camera was at the department’s offices. Salt Lake City police cars are not outfitted with dash cameras.
The lawsuit states that Hone encountered Sanchez and another man, who were sitting on a bench and not causing a disturbance.
In a police report, Hone claims Sanchez was verbally aggressive and taunted Hone, saying he would fight him. He said Sanchez took a fighting stance and advanced toward him, backing him into heavy traffic on State Street.
But a witness to the incident, Sydney Kapplan, disputed that claim at Wednesday’s news conference.
“I think maybe he was trying to get his balance, to be honest with you,” Kapplan said of Sanchez’s movements. “He was very inebriated.“
Kapplan said Sanchez took a couple steps from the bench, but he was not threatening the officer with physical violence. Kapplan said Sanchez was ranting about his civil rights being violated and yelled profanities at the officer.
Kapplan said she did not know Sanchez before the incident and showed up to the news conference because she felt it was the right thing to do.
Hone retrieved his dog, Ted, from the car. He told Sanchez to stay seated, but sicced the dog on Sanchez when he didn’t comply, the lawsuit claims. Sanchez said during the news conference that he didn’t get down as Hone asked because he has bad knees that lock up. Kapplan said she heard Sanchez explaining this to Hone, but Hone didn’t listen and released the dog.
Surveillance video from the nearby courthouse shown by Sykes to the news media shows Sanchez stand and take a few steps from the bench prior to Ted being released. He is seen leaving the video frame, but his heel pops in and out of it, indicating he didn’t stray far from the bench, something Kapplan corroborated.
The lawsuit claims not only that Hone was reckless in releasing the dog, but that he waited an “unusually long period of time” before calling it off.
Sanchez tried to get the dog off him during the attack, grabbing at its muzzle. According to Hone’s police report, he told Sanchez to “stop fighting my dog.”
Kapplan said that after the attack, Hone taunted Sanchez with Ted, holding the dog near Sanchez and threatening to release him.
“Move one muscle and he’ll go on you again,” Kapplan quoted Hone as saying. She added: “I don’t know if they are allowed to do that, but it was brutal.”
Sykes said the whole thing was excessive given the nature of the call. “A minor violation,” he exclaimed. “With that result.”
A Salt Lake City Police Department news release says Sanchez “repeatedly threatened to assault our officer, as shown on surveillance video and corroborated by multiple eye witnesses. The officer warned Sanchez about his aggression but ultimately had to deploy his K-9 in order to prevent further assault and take the suspect into custody.”
Sykes said that although Sanchez was intoxicated, he was not causing a disturbance. The surveillance video shows Sanchez and the other man sitting on the bench for about eight minutes prior to police arriving.
Sykes said Sanchez was never an immediate threat of serious injury or death to anyone, and that at most he was being minimally noncompliant when the dog was released.
“The unreasonable, excessive, and dangerous force used by Hone evidenced a reckless and deliberate indifference to the life, safety, and well-being of Mr. Sanchez,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims excessive force by Hone, unlawful or deficient policies on behalf of the city and police department, a failure to train or supervise on behalf of the city and police department, and a civil rights violation of unlawful seizure on behalf of Hone.
Sanchez was arrested Wednesday on a $5,000 warrant issued Sept. 11 after he failed to appear for a hearing. Sanchez had been charged on Aug. 8 in 3rd District Court with misdemeanor counts of assault against a police officer, interference with an arresting officer and disorderly conduct.
A summons for the September hearing had been sent to a downtown Salt Lake City address. But Sykes said Sanchez is homeless.
Utah court records show that Sanchez has misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1991, including simple assault, retail theft, public intoxication, criminal trespass and open container in a public place.
“He could be the best officer in the world — he could be ‘Officer Friendly,’ ” Sykes said. “But what he did on this day was wrong … ”
As police cuffed Sanchez outside of Syke’s office, he told Wilking they were making a mistake. “It looks bad for you, horrible,” Sykes told Wilking.
As an officer patted Sanchez’s leg down before placing him in a police car, Sykes got in one last shot.
“The only thing you’re going to feel down there is a big scar,” he said.